North Texas Daily

Barbie: Finally updated for the 21st century

Barbie: Finally updated for the 21st century

Barbie: Finally updated for the 21st century
February 17
09:14 2016

Morgan Sullivan | Staff Writer


Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all mentality, at least as far as Barbie is concerned.

Mattel, the company that manufactures Barbie, announced last month that Barbie’s iconic body, which has come under scrutiny in recent years, will finally be updated for the 21st century.

To that I say it’s about time.

The company announced that Barbie will now be available in four body types: tall, petite, curvy and original. Barbie will also be available in seven skin tones with customization including 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles.

There’s no question that representation is important. For too many years, girls have seen only dolls with egregiously long legs and wonky body proportions, and whether it’s with blue hair or natural curls, girls need to see diversity in the toys they play with. When the only toys available are of tall, skinny and blonde women, girls start to believe that image is the only way to be beautiful. Though there have been updated versions of Barbie over the last half-century, this is the first time the iconic slim figure has gotten a makeover.

Barbie has looked like a result of eugenics for half a century, and Mattel’s new commitment to diversity is refreshing. These new dolls represent a better portion of what our country – and the world – actually look like.

The 2016 Barbie now flaunts blue and violet hair. She rocks an undercut. She has natural curls and hair both short and long. She comes in more skin tones than ever before. Her ankles adjust, so Barbie can finally slip off those uncomfortable heels and settle for some flats. And yet, this feels like only the beginning.

Although the company has come a long way, there’s still much further left to go. The company has made some big strides, but the doll is still patronizing of real girls. President and vice president Barbie will also be available this summer.

Perhaps it’s a response to the changing times, but it feels a bit stale.

What makes a girl presidential material isn’t about what she wears. Barbie can be a doctor or a lawyer, but she doesn’t need a special outfit to be brilliant. Even the rolling out of a new look seems a little forced for Mattel.

Their stocks fell 4 percent last quarter for “want list” items. Perhaps it was just time for a change – or perhaps this was a deliberate nudge hoping to regain popularity among the masses.

It’s too soon to tell if these new dolls will have a lasting impact on children. Maybe girls are already bored of the stereotypes and lack of options. Maybe iPads and other mobile technology are grabbing more of the market share than Mattel can buy back with sudden diversity. Or, perhaps, girls are fed up with being told who they can and cannot be, and have already turned their backs on Barbie.

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